Racing community rallies around ThorSport after fire

Andy Cagle NASCAR columnist

When we talk about racing, we talk about things — these fast machines that are capable of hitting speeds more than 200 mph and can survive crashes that exert 60 times the force of gravity. We often get caught up with things like spoiler heights and splitters and the manufacturer’s logo, headlight and taillight decals that adorn the fast machines.

But racing is really about people.

None of the things that we argue and bicker about in NASCAR happen without a bunch of smart, hard working, slightly crazy people. There are quasi-mad scientist engineers and mechanics and wily old (and young) crew chiefs. Sure the drivers are the ones that get most of the adulation and credit – from the young guys I have been writing about to six-time champions – but there are a lot of people behind their success.

And a lot of money, but that’s neither here nor there.

This past week, we saw the resolve of some of those people. On June 13, a fire ravaged the shop of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series stalwarts ThorSport Racing. The fire broke out in the basement of the team’s Sandusky, Ohio, facility and destroyed roughly 40 percent of the building.

For most people, this would be a devastating blow to their efforts. But not in racing. Four days later, ThorSport showed up at Iowa Speedway with its full complement of teams and competed like it had been just another week. The team was able to salvage eight trucks and all of the transporters were removed from the shop before being damaged in the fire. The team worked to prepare the trucks of Ben Rhodes, Rico Abreu, Cameron Hayley and Matt Crafton for the June 18 race at Iowa in parking lots throughout the area, including at the local Kroger. Within 24 hours of the fire, much of the debris had been cleared and temporary lights had been hung.

“Obviously, we’re behind the eight ball a little bit,” David Pepper, ThorSport Racing’s general manager said prior to qualifying at Iowa Speedway. “We need to come here and have a good, solid performance. That will do as much to keep the morale up as anything. We did lose some equipment, but we’re in a good position to keep going.”

Through their herculean efforts, at Iowa Hayley finished third, Rhodes fourth, Crafton (the series points leader) eighth and Abreu 18th. Pretty good considering the circumstances.

ThorSport isn’t out of the woods quite yet despite the good showing at Iowa. Two of the team’s new chassis, along with all of the equipment for this week’s race at Gateway, were complete losses. But given the way folks have rallied around the team and the perseverance they have shown thus far, I wouldn’t bet against them.

Pepper said the response from the racing community has been overwhelming in the aftermath. There were nearly 400 texts and emails within hours of the fire. Sprint Cup teams, ARCA teams and other truck teams called offering haulers, pit boxes and equipment for Iowa.

Now I’ll give you that ThorSport has a bit more money than most of the other teams not named Kyle Busch Motorsports in the truck series. OK, maybe a lot more money, but recovering from this fire and continuing on and competing for championships is about people. You don’t have the outpouring of support from across the community unless you are good people. You don’t get competitors offering up stuff unless you are good people. The Kroger doesn’t let you post up in their parking lot unless you are good people.

And those people are what make good stories for guys like me and what make racing such a great sport.

Andy Cagle writes a weekly column during the NASCAR season. He can be reached by email at

Andy Cagle NASCAR columnist Cagle NASCAR columnist
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